At this last HyperKult, Andreas Otto and I had the opportunity to exhibit our noisecabin installation from 2006 again. Originally commissioned for the “5 Days Off” festival at the Melkweg club in Amsterdam, the installation is designed to add artificial sound reflections to spaces in which bustling activity is contrasted with times of almost silence. This is true for both club events and conferences, of course, and so the installation was placed in the back of the lecture room and the hall outside. Parts of the lectures were sampled, mashed up, and then replayed in the hall later when the sonic activity level started to decrease.
The WretchUp instrument I designed for Mouse On Mars is now finally available for everyone on the iOS App Store. The original idea came about when we discussed the landscape of iOS music apps and noticed a lack of apps that experimented with a certain lack of control, a risk associated with using them, but thereby gaining new ways of expression. We were searching for the freedom found in many physical instruments, where everything can go horribly wrong in the next moment, but the instrumentalist can start to learn and tame the instrument, gaining new ways of expression along the way. Think of string instruments, pianos, acoustic and electric guitars, but also instruments like the STEIM Crackle Box.
WretchUp is not the answer to this quest, but it is intended as a step in that direction. The Pd patch leaned on the great Rjlib selection of high-level construction elements, which were modified to render what is essentially a feedback instrument built on two delay lines. The patch ran in RjDj on iOS, which is sadly no longer available on the App Store. To make the instrument more risky but also more rewarding to use, we added gyro control over the base octave and an additional filter at the output stage.
Peter Kirn and Oliver Greschke then took on the task of converting the original patch into an app, while also expanding it by adding a looper and the option to choose between continuous mic input or input on touch. The app remains simple, but can generate a nice variety of sounds, which in this case mostly means soundscapes beyond the safe, toned down sounds of typical iOS synthesizers. Forcing the musician to work for control, and also to work for getting any sound out of the app at all, is part of the idea. This can be seen as a hurdle at first, but when it is overcome, very small gestures with the instrument can make huge differences, serving as a basis for an individual development of distinctively different sound expressions.
In another video by SoundTestRoom, one of the early adopters, we find a very different use case with different results.
WretchUp is available on the App Store:
Electronic Beats and Slices Magazine produced a studio feature and tech talk with Mouse On Mars. Two of the iOS-instruments I custom-built for Mouse On Mars-projects using Pd and Rjdj are shown in detail at the end of the video.
Although Kevin Kelly’s famous book “Out of Control” was published back in 1994, it still holds plenty of topics that are worth to be brought to the table in all different kinds of discourses on systems. In addition, it provides a broad spectrum of ideas for computer models of complex systems. The author has kindly made the full book available for free on his website.
Strangely enough, although the author describes the benefits of biological and technological coevolution, he then ventures to favor technological taking over biological evolution by means of genetic and bioengineering. This is where I’d disagree, as it seems illogical, especially in the context of the book itself, to deliberately give up biological assets such as proven sustainability in conjunction with emergence, and fallback mechanisms that can help minimize risk for all parties involved.
In chapter 11 of his Laws of Form, George Spencer Brown offers the notion of circuits as a way to interpret his calculus. He gives a few examples (p55 in the 2008 edition). Using Max/MSP as the programming environment, it is rather simple to reproduce these circuits. There are two different circuits in the chapter, both of which essentially do the same thing: divide the frequency of a pulse by two.
Download the example programs (Mac OS / Windows)
The circuit is built so that variable a changes between the marked and the unmarked state. The first example corresponds to arrangement E4 in chapter 11, while the second example operates with the imaginary state, thereby simplyfying the circuit. In the 2008 edition of the Laws of Form, Spencer Brown points out that the circuit can also work with four connections less than in the illustration, and asks the reader to find out which connections can be left out. The third example program presents a possible solution to this challenge.
Finally, the fourth example program is even simpler, with fewer connections than the other examples. However, this program seems to work profoundly different than Spencer Brown’s examples, and it does not keep the calculation’s phase as they do.
At last, a long-awaited feature surfaced in the latest releases of the ‘extended’ version of Pure Data (Pd), the open source programming environment that’s a close cousin of Max/MSP: Exporting patches as standalone applications.
Sure, this was possible before if you knew how to compile the necessary files and write your own scripts, but now, at least on Mac OS, it’s as easy as the push of a button. And I’m sure that will make a big, big difference for a lot of Pd builders. Hopefully, we’re going to see more and more Pd-based applications appear, that people without any experience in Pd can use straight out of the box.
It’s unclear when this feature will be available in the Linux and Windows versions of Pd, but if you’re on a Mac, just download the latest Pd autobuild.
On the coding page, a new project written in Max/MSP is now online. It is designed to make the work with concatenated distinctions as described in George Spencer Brown’s “Laws of Form” more convenient by automatically generating visual arrangements from a simple script. The program is available as standalone application for both Windows and Mac OS platforms.